Manitoba Opera

Nov 23, 2020


November 11 was a very special day for Dr. Douglas MacEwan and four lucky arts organizations. It marks the day that Dr. MacEwan not only completed on schedule, but surpassed, his “Walk for the Arts” challenge of walking 96 km in order to raise $96,000 for the arts!

In total, he walked 109 km and raised $124,107 (to date). This World War II veteran also celebrated his 96th birthday on Remembrance Day as well.

With Code Red pandemic restrictions in place, celebration plans were cancelled and Dr. MacEwan was accompanied by just family for his final walk.

“Dr. MacEwan has inspired us all with his audacious goal, his determination and grit, and his willingness to dig in and find a way to help something he cares deeply about,” commented Larry Desrochers, Manitoba Opera’s General Director & CEO, speaking on behalf of the four recipient organizations.

Donations raised include $100,000 from the anonymous sponsor of this challenge and $24,107 raised, to date, from individual donations. Funds will be split between Manitoba Opera (MO), Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (RMTC), Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB), and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO).

“I am very happy to have reached my goal and to have inspired others to donate to the campaign,” said Dr. MacEwan. “And to have been joined on my daily walks by so many artists and other hard-working members of our artistic community was such a treat!”

View Press Release

Oct 16, 2020

The Sopranos of Winnipeg Concert Live Streams from the Centennial Concert Hall

Saturday, November 7

Manitoba Opera, in partnership with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, will be presenting its first livestreamed event, The Sopranos of Winnipeg concert, Saturday, November 7, from the Centennial Concert Hall.

Seven critically acclaimed Winnipeg singers will take to the stage: Andriana Chuchman, Lara Ciekiewicz, Tracy Dahl, Monica Huisman, Andrea Lett, Lara Secord-Haid, and Lida Szkwarek, accompanied by a 40-member Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Tadeusz Biernacki. This powerhouse line-up will perform a selection of works from operas including La Traviata, Susannah, Rusalka, and The Marriage of Figaro.

“We are so lucky to have a wealth of exceptional sopranos in our community,” commented Larry Desrochers, General Director & CEO. “This is likely a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear these seven wonderful singers in one concert. These are sought-after artists, many of whom travel the globe for operas, concerts, and recitals. It’s going to be an extraordinary evening.”

Livestream tickets are just $35 plus GST per household and are on sale now at or by calling 204-944-8824.

A limited number of seats will be available to attend the concert in person. Tickets are $75 and $65 plus GST and fees. (Please note: due to the rising number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Winnipeg, ticket sales to attend the concert in person have been temporarily suspended.)


View Press Release

Sep 10, 2020


Winnipeg arts lover, Dr. Douglas MacEwan, is soon turning 96, but nothing is slowing him down when it comes to supporting his favourite arts groups. He has taken on a challenge people half his age wouldn’t even consider: walking one kilometer every day for 96 days in order to raise $96,000 to be divided evenly between Winnipeg’s four major performing arts organizations – Manitoba Opera, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Born in Ottawa, ON, this WWII veteran trained as a medical doctor specializing in radiology and moved to Winnipeg in 1966 to work at the HSC/University of Manitoba. He cares deeply about the arts in the city he has called home for years. When the pandemic hit and stages went black, he knew he wanted to help to ensure the footlights shine again and performers are able to return to the stage when the time is right.

“I wanted to do something to ensure that future generations, including my eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, grow up in a city with a thriving performing arts community,” explains Dr. MacEwan.

An anonymous sponsor has agreed to donate $500 for every kilometer Dr. MacEwan walks, plus an additional $500 for each day he finds someone to walk with. Dr. MacEwan makes sure to take a selfie with his walking buddies, and his daughter, Eleanor, is assembling a book to commemorate the project.

By the time Dr. MacEwan finishes his challenge on November 11 – his 96th birthday – he will have raised a total of $96,000 for the performing arts in Winnipeg. As an extra incentive, if Dr. MacEwan completes the challenge, the sponsor has offered to round up the donation to $100,000.

“Dr. MacEwan is a very compassionate, caring individual and is an inspiration to us all,” commented Larry Desrochers, Manitoba Opera’s General Director & CEO, speaking on behalf of the four recipient organizations. “He has been a long-standing patron of all our organizations; he has been attending Manitoba Opera productions since 1972 when we were in our infancy. To take on such a challenge at any age, but certainly as a nonagenarian is truly remarkable and deserves our deepest respect. That he has chosen to do this for Winnipeg’s arts community is very inspiring.”


View Press Release

Aug 10, 2020


Manitoba Opera (MO) announced the names of the four applicants who were selected to participate in the company’s first Digital Emerging Artists Program (DEAP). This four-week intensive online professional development program launched August 4. They are soprano Sydney Baedke (born in Medicine Hat, AB and currently residing in Toronto); mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Hoyt-Surdhar (born in Edmonton, AB and currently residing in Winnipeg); tenor Kaden Forsberg (born in Edmonton, AB and currently residing in Montreal); and baritone Nicholas Borg (born in London, ON and currently residing in Toronto).

The successful artists were selected from 48 applications received from Canadian emerging operatic artists between the ages of 18 and 35. The selection team was comprised of the four core faculty members: Tracy Dahl, Monica Huisman, Marion Newman, and John Tessier, all professional singers/voice instructors, and Manitoba Opera General Director & CEO, Larry Desrochers.

“Being selected as a digital emerging artist with Manitoba Opera has not only allowed for me to remain engaged with this industry and my growth as a young singer during this difficult time, but has also presented an invigorating opportunity to contribute to what opera will look like in 2020,” explains participant Sydney Baedke. “It is inspiring to be involved in Manitoba Opera’s digital artistic initiative, and I’m so grateful for this new, exciting platform.”

Nicholas Borg added, “Getting the opportunity to work with the Manitoba Opera team means that even in spite of the pandemic I can continue my artistic development with incredible mentors. The program’s focus on digital creation means that we will be able to share our art with a wide audience in innovative ways.”

The program of daily educational and professional development activities includes voice lessons, masterclasses, and webinars on topics such as language coaching, diction, life skills, and career development. As well, each participant will exit the program with a professionally recorded audition video to be used to help launch the next phase of their careers.

“In this time of uncertainty for everyone in the arts, young and established, MO has turned their focus to helping young artists. This amazing program is a renaissance in very bleak times for the performing arts. If we don’t support these young singers through this period, it will be a very different arts world at the other end,” explains Monica Huisman, core faculty member. “I for one couldn’t be more proud of how proactive and leading edge MO has been during this time in creating this nurturing, informative, motivating, and paid opportunity for these amazing young singers.”

Manitoba Opera’s Digital Emerging Artists Program is supported by the RBC Emerging Artists Project.

The RBC Emerging Artists Project supports organizations that provide meaningful opportunities to advance artists’ career trajectories. The Project has supported over 24,000 artists since its inception.

“We’re thrilled that RBC has come on board to help support the important program for emerging artists.  Perhaps now, more than ever, the next generation artists need the support of programs like the RBC Emerging Artist Project as they look toward building their future careers,” said General Director and CEO, Larry Desrochers.

View Press Release

Jul 16, 2020

Manitoba Opera Launches Digital Emerging Artists Program

Applications are now being accepted for Manitoba Opera’s first Digital Emerging Artists Program which will be held next month (August 2020). This four-week intensive online professional development program is open to emerging operatic artists between the ages of 18-35. Four participants will be selected to hone their artistic skills while developing the tools necessary to create online content.

“We are very pleased to be launching our first online education program for young artists,” commented Larry Desrochers, General Director & CEO. “The program will create enriching employment opportunities for emerging and established artists at a time when they need support more than ever.”

The program’s core faculty consists of four widely acclaimed professional singers/instructors: sopranos Tracy Dahl and Monica Huisman; mezzo-soprano Marion Newman; and tenor John Tessier.

The core faculty will be curating four weeks’ worth of daily educational and professional development activities for participants. The program will include guest teaching artists, masterclasses, and webinars on topics such as language coaching, diction, audio and video production, and career development. As well, each participant will leave the program with a professionally recorded audition video to be used to help launch the next phase of their careers.

To apply and for more information, go to

View Press Release

Jul 14, 2020

Manitoba Opera Posts Small Surplus on 2019/20 Season Despite Impact of COVID-19

Manitoba Opera (MO) announced this evening at its 2019/20 Annual General Meeting (AGM), held via Zoom, that the company posted a small surplus on the year, which ended May 31, 2020, despite the cancellation of half the season due to COVID-19.

Manitoba Opera posted an operating surplus of $1,370 on a budget of $1,972,497.  As a result of the pandemic, the company experienced a significant drop in box office revenue resulting from the cancellation of the spring production of Carmen.  Box office revenues decreased to $182,030 from $555,283 in 2018/19.

The company also had to postpone, until the spring of 2021, a gala reception at which Mrs. Tannis Richardson was to receive The Gail Asper Award.  In 2018/19, this event at which The Gail Asper Award honored the award’s namesake, netted more than $173,000.

Contributing to Manitoba Opera’s strong year end position were increases in individual giving throughout the year and in a year-end matching campaign; supplemental grants including $70,967 from the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy; and approximately $150,000 donated back in gift-in-kind ticket donations and special event admissions resulting from the cancellation of Carmen.

“The generosity and support of the community this past season from all levels: patrons, donors, sponsors, and funders has been both heartwarming and critical to enable the company to end the fiscal year in a position of financial stability,” commented Elba Haid, Chair, Manitoba Opera Board of Trustees. “We are very thankful for this support and encouragement as we continue to explore the role Manitoba Opera will play in our community in the coming months.”

Manitoba Opera’s 47th season opened in the fall with the critically acclaimed and artistically successful company premiere of Susannah, by American composer Carlisle Floyd. Ten of the 12 leading performers were Manitoba born and were led by Winnipeg soprano Lara Ciekiewicz who was praised for her “tour-de-force performance” by the Winnipeg Free Press.

The perennial favourite, Carmen, was scheduled to close the season in late March and was on track to selling out when rehearsals were cut short in mid-March and the production cancelled due to the evolving nature of the pandemic.

“Manitoba Opera’s 47th season will undoubtedly be remembered for the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and our first-ever mainstage production cancellation, but a number of major accomplishments should also be recognized as well,” said Larry Desrochers, General Director & CEO.

“Besides the artistic success of Susannah and Lara’s outstanding work and career milestone as the lead; the company also continued to provide an interesting and thought-provoking range of community engagement events around our productions; we were fortunate to work once again with the one-of-a-kind, Al Simmons , in our education programming; and in 2019, the company also embarked on a multi-year project to forge meaningful, respectful, and informed connections with Indigenous communities in Winnipeg and Manitoba.”

The 2020/21 Board of Trustees was also announced at the AGM. New trustees elected to the Board are Timothy E. Burt, Terence Douglas, and Flavia Fernandez Fabio.  Lana Maidment was elected to her first term as a trustee. (Bios follow).

Current  trustees re-elected were Judith Chambers, Dr. David Folk, Elba Haid (Chair), Keith Sinclair, Peter George, Alex Robinson, and Dr. Jeffrey Sisler. Returning trustees in mid-terms are Paul Bruch-Wiens, Charlene Ilas, Grant Suderman, Daniela Ignat, Maria Mitousis, Dustin Schneider, and Lori Yorke.

Retiring from the Board of Trustees after completing four full terms was Abbie Grieder and Luisa Matheson who served four full terms and one two-year term as part of a special resolution.



Once again this season, Manitoba Opera presented a wide variety of community engagement activities related to the productions including an evening of square dancing; a lively discussion on Carmen in the Era of #MeToo; and a panel discussion about sexual abuse in faith-based communities.  This year, more than 2,500 people participated in these events.

The highlight of the education programming this season was the return of Al Simmons’ one-man rendition of The Barber of Seville which toured to schools in Winnipeg and the surrounding region. More than 6,300 students at 18 schools were introduced to opera through the magic of Al’s ability to put on an opera in 45 minutes, playing 10 characters.

Opera Class introduced more than 800 students to opera through the hands-on workshops. This popular workshop led by local singers was presented 26 times at 18 Winnipeg schools this season.


2020/21 SEASON

Sweeney Todd and Tosca

The company announced, on June 29, the cancellation of the season opening production of Sweeney Todd. The Manitoba premiere of this Broadway masterpiece was scheduled to run at the Centennial Concert Hall November 7, 10, and 13. The production was cancelled owing to a number of reasons in response to the pandemic: primarily the safety of patrons and artists/crew; rehearsals not being possible with social distancing measures in place; and that the required social distancing measures for the audience would reduce the number of seats available to sell which results in large-scale productions not being economically viable to produce.

Though the fall production has been cancelled, Manitoba Opera will continue to present opera throughout the year. Plans have been developed for a variety of artistic, community engagement, and education programming.  Some events will be online, some live, and others will be a combination of both, depending on circumstances.

These plans include live-streamed concerts in November and February; garden tours; a new Digital Emerging Artists Program; for the kids, Celebrity Opera Storytime; and much more that’s currently in development.

Season Opening Concert: The Sopranos of Winnipeg, Saturday, November 7, 7:30 pm

The Sopranos of Winnipeg will feature some of North America’s most talented artists who all live right here in our Prairie town!  Sopranos confirmed to date include Tracy Dahl, Lara Ciekiewicz, Monica Huisman, Lara Secord-Haid, Lida Szkwarek, and Andrea Lett. They, along with members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, will be performing a selection of works in a 75-minute, live-streamed event from the Centennial Concert Hall, Saturday, November 7, beginning at 7:30 pm. Ticket details and program information to be announced soon.

Tosca, Puccini’s suspense-filled political thriller, is still scheduled for April 10, 13, and 16, 2021; however, the company will continue to monitor circumstances closer to the production.

For more information on programming, go to or call 204-944-8824.

View Press Release

Jun 29, 2020

Manitoba Opera Announces Cancellation of 2020/21 Season Opening Production of Sweeney Todd

Manitoba Opera announced today that the 2020/21 season opening production, Sweeney Todd, is cancelled.  The company made the decision to cancel the Manitoba premiere of this Broadway masterpiece scheduled to run at the Centennial Concert Hall November 7, 10, and 13, owing to a number of reasons in response to the pandemic.

“The Board of Trustees and I came to this conclusion based on a number of factors,” explained Larry Desrochers, General Director & CEO. “First and foremost, the safety of our patrons, artists, crew, staff, and volunteers is of paramount importance, and we do not believe that we can guarantee the appropriate level of safety for a full-scale production at this time.

The Province has indicated that it will not be reviewing the re-opening of large venues like the Centennial Concert Hall until September. To prepare a production for November, chorus rehearsals would normally start in August, and rehearsals are not possible with social distancing in place.

Social distancing measures that must be in place for the audience in the Centennial Concert Hall reduces the number of available seats to sell and that means producing large-scale productions is not economically viable at this time.”

Though the fall production has been cancelled, Manitoba Opera will continue to present opera throughout the year. Plans have been developed for a variety of artistic, community engagement, and education programming.  Some events will be online, some live, and others will be a combination of both, depending on circumstances.

View Press Release

May 28, 2020

A Message from Larry Desrochers

This is the final edition of Libretto for the 2019/20 season.  It’s the season that will go down in the history books as the one with the asterisk beside it, like the prize fighter who changed weight classes to win a championship or the Stanley Cup-winning team in a shortened season.  A special achievement in extraordinary circumstances.

Soon the Government of Manitoba will implement Phase 2 of its re-opening plan, and we will all take cautious, careful, wobbly baby steps towards – what?  That, as Hamlet says, is the question.  Are we going back to the old normal or are we wandering down the path to some undiscovered country?  I wonder if we still think that it is familiarity that breeds contempt.  Perhaps these days, it is uncertainty.

I’m reminded of a principle in Steven Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: we “should begin with the end in mind.”  Simply put, an architect imagines a building, then creates the blueprints, and then builds the building.  She/he begins with the imagined “end in mind” first, and then proactively takes steps to make that end a reality.

So, what is the “end in mind” for Manitoba Opera?  Where do I imagine we are six months from now, or a year, or two years?  Does Figaro still have the solutions to everyone’s problems?  Do Rodolfo and Mimi still fall in love over candlelight?  Does Papageno still find his Papagena?  Of course they do, and they always will because no matter how we do it, Manitoba Opera will always be about singing, music, and story.  The “end in mind” is for artists to share the gifts of their talents with audiences, lovingly portraying the pains and joys, the blood and soul of the human experience.

For a little while we might not sit in a darkened theatre together or I might not be able to greet you in the lobby.  But summer is upon us and the smell of lilacs is in the air.  Besides, who wants to go the opera when it’s nice outside anyway?  Unless, of course, it is outside!  In a few weeks, we will be sharing our plans for next season; some of those plans will remain the same and some will change.  What will be a constant throughout next season though is our pledge to provide quality experiences and opportunities to share opera with you that we hope inspires, entertains, and delights.

Finally, I want to thank the hundreds of patrons who’ve donated their Carmen tickets back to the company, as well as the hundreds of donors who’ve renewed their gifts or donated to our year end campaign.  The board, staff, artists, and volunteers are all very grateful for your support.  Your generosity makes the asterisk on this season a little more special.



Larry Desrochers
General Director & CEO

View Press Release

Mar 16, 2020




MARCH 28, 31, APRIL 3, 2020;


Manitoba Opera announced today that the run of Carmen, scheduled for March 28, 31, and April 3, at the Centennial Concert Hall, has been cancelled following the recommendations of the Province of Manitoba’s public health authorities to limit gatherings larger than 250 in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“I want to thank our patrons, supporters and stakeholders for their patience as we organized ourselves in preparation for this announcement,” said Larry Desrochers, General Director & CEO.  “Of course, this decision is a disappointment to both patrons who were looking forward to the production and the artists who were eager to perform, but clearly necessary in this time of crisis.”

In the coming days, Manitoba Opera will be in communication with Carmen ticket holders with more information about options for their tickets and appreciate their patience during these unprecedented circumstances.

The company has also postponed the Gala Reception honouring Tannis M. Richardson to the fall and will be providing more information on this event as it is finalized.

The Dinner at DeLuca’s event May 14 is still on schedule to occur, but advisories from public health officials will be monitored over the coming weeks and if necessary, that will be postponed as well.

View Press Release

Mar 10, 2020


Considered to be one of the world’s most popular operas, Carmen, the sexy thriller that seduces the audience with every note, will be presented by Manitoba Opera at the Centennial Concert Hall Saturday, March 28 (7:30 pm), Tuesday, March 31, (7 pm), and Friday, April 3 (7:30 pm).  Set in Spain, Carmen tells the story of a passionate, free-spirited woman who can have any man she wants, but when she seduces the young soldier Don José only to cast him aside for the handsome bullfighter, she seals her tragic fate.  Carmen will be sung in French with French dialogue and projected English projections.

For tickets call 204-944-8824, go online at, or in person at the MO Box Office, lower level, Centennial Concert Hall (9:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday).  Seniors, students, and youth discounts are available.

Carmen is unrivalled in its list hit melodies and recognizable music, including Carmen’s smoky Habanera, Don José’s Flower Song, and the rousing Toreador Song.  Over 140 years after its premiere in Paris, composer Georges Bizet’s opera continues to captivate audiences around the globe.

“Who can resist the sensuous music of Bizet? With its lavish score and brilliant orchestration, Carmen is an irresistible theatrical event. Last performed by the company in 2010, we are very pleased to bring this opera to the stage for an entirely new audience,” explains Larry Desrochers, General Director & CEO.

View Press Release

Mar 5, 2020


Manitoba Opera’s 20/21 Season to Feature

A Manitoba First: Sweeney Todd and the Political Thriller: Tosca


In its 48th season, Manitoba Opera (MO) will be bringing two outstanding works to the stage. Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd – a masterpiece of American repertoire which has won or been nominated for over 60 awards – will open the season November 7, 19, 13, and Puccini’s Tosca – one of opera’s most suspenseful and compelling works – will be presented April 10, 13, 16. Both productions will be presented at the Centennial Concert Hall. For tickets call 204-957-7842 or go to

These showpieces are unparalleled theatrical experiences. Sweeney Todd is a darkly comic look at poverty and vengeance in Victorian England; Tosca is a first-rate political thriller fueled by jealously, lust, and double crossings. Each features amazing music and arias, edge-of-your-seat stories, sets that will transport you to another time and place – all delivered by a host of incomparable artists from all over North America.

A Manitoba First! This will be the first time that a full-scale production of Sweeney Todd will be presented in the province.  Manitoba Opera is the only arts organization in the province able to present this work as written with a full orchestra, sets, and costumes.

View Press Release

Feb 20, 2020

The Man Behind the Man Behind Carmen 

Prosper Mérimée (1803–1870) was a French dramatist, historian, archaeologist, and short story writer. He is perhaps best known for his novella Carmen, which became the basis of Bizet’s opera Carmen.

Mérimée was born in Paris. He studied law as well as Greek, Spanish, English, and Russian. He was among the first interpreters of Russian literature in France. Mérimée loved mysticism, history, the unusual, and the mystification, the historical fiction popularized by Sir Walter Scott and the cruelty and psychological drama of Aleksandr Pushkin. Many of his stories are mysteries set in foreign places, Spain and Russia being popular sources of inspiration.

In 1834, Mérimée was appointed to the post of inspector-general of historical monuments, and he was instrumental in the restoration and preservation of many historic sites in France, including the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the citadel Carcassonne. In this official capacity he published numerous reports, some of which, with other similar pieces, have been republished in his works.

Mérimée met and befriended the Countess of Montijo in Spain in 1830 who he credited as being his source for the Carmen story. He coached the Countess’ daughter, Eugenie, during her courtship with Napoleon III (though his correspondence indicates he was opposed to their marriage). When the daughter became Empress Eugénie of France in 1853 he was made a senator.

In 1841, Prosper Mérimée and his friend George Sand* made a major contribution to the history of medieval art by discovering the luminous tapestries of The Lady and the Unicorn during a stay at the Château de Boussac in the Limousin district of central France, which entered immediately into history thanks to the writings of Sand.

Prosper Mérimée died in Cannes, France.

*George Sand was the pseudonym used by Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, a French novelist who is recognized as one of the most notable authors of the Romantic era in Europe.



View Press Release

Jan 28, 2020

A Close Shave for Al Simmons’ The Barber of Seville  

This winter, 18 schools in Winnipeg and southern Manitoba will have the pleasure of experiencing “The Barber of Seville styled by Al Simmons.” However, it is a tour that could have easily never happened. In 2018, the trailer on Al’s property in Anola, Manitoba, that houses all his show props and costumes burnt down, and he lost almost everything.

Commissioned by Manitoba Opera in 2009, Al’s 55-minute version of The Barber of Seville has toured all over the province and become a school favourite that always sells out. In the fall of 2018, the company reached out to Al and proposed he take a crack at rebuilding the beloved show. He was game for the challenge.

Between January 28 and March 6, Al, the master of mischief, mayhem, and madcap-melody, will be presenting his fourth tour of this one-man show to over 8,000 students. For the majority of students, this 55-minute comical look at love, greed, deceit, and close shaves will be their first experience with opera.


We visited with Al recently as he was putting the finishing touches on the new show to chat with him about the rebuilding process.


Following the loss of so many of your costumes and props, you had to rebuild the entire show from the ground up. What was that process like, and did you end up making any changes to the show as a result of rebuilding?

It was heart breaking to lose all the props and costumes from this show. I even had specially designed homemade cases to transport everything.  My script and stage plots were in the cases. Fortunately I had most of the text in my computer. The props were fun to rebuild, even though I couldn’t find some of the parts.

I had used an antique hand cranked blower to create a storm.  A good friend in Connecticut found something similar and sent it to me. My wife, Barb, still had the patterns for the costume so she was able to re-create it. Fortunately, I had lots of photos to work from.  I’m proud to say that my “carrot-scizzors” and “volcano wig” are superior to the first ones I made.


This is the fourth time that you have toured this show for us. What is it about the plot of The Barber of Seville that makes it a good show for student audiences?

The story of love, lies and bullying in this 200-year-old European opera still resonates with today’s youth. The lyrics of the songs come very close to the themes of the current hit parade, proving nothing much has changed over the years. The music touches the soul, and the comedy captivates students as young as kindergarteners. Most students who have seen my show had heard opera before – in a cartoons, movies, or video games – but they don’t realize it until I play them a few popular excerpts.


For this show, you wear a lot of hats – literally! How many different characters do you portray?

I become 10 different people: Figaro, Rosina, Count Almaviva, Dr. Bartolo, Fiorello, Don Basilio, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, as well as William Tell and his son.


How is this show different than or similar to any of the other shows you perform?

The only similarity between my shows is me. I’m in all the shows! Seriously though folks, all my shows are funny and have wacky props and costumes.  I spend a lot of time hiding education in my comedy – be they science facts, language arts, or just subtle life lessons – I want to leave the audience with information. This show demonstrates that operas are stories that are sung. It also lets folks hear music that they wouldn’t necessarily hear on the radio or on a streaming service.


If you were to pick another opera to set as a one-man show, which one would you choose?

I have always loved Carmen, but starting off a show in a cigarette factory might not be the best idea for elementary kids.


Al Simmons working on the Barber of Seville props. Photo Robert Tinker.


View Press Release

Jan 21, 2020


Toronto, ON –, the national association for opera in Canada, is proud to honour an outstanding opera company board member, Elba Haid, Chair of Manitoba Opera’s (MO) Board of Trustees, as the 2020 recipient of the National Opera Directors Recognition Award.
Now in its 12th year, the National Opera Directors Recognition Award highlights the tenets of good governance, celebrates models of volunteer excellence, and raises the bar for board director commitment.

“The strength and stability of an opera company correlates to the calibre of its volunteer leadership, and strong governance is a crucial factor in an opera company’s success. Elba Haid’s contributions to Manitoba Opera are exemplary, enabling the company to increase its fundraising, eliminate debt, and build a strong foundation for the future,” stated Christina Loewen, Executive Director of “We are delighted to honour Elba Haid with this award and to celebrate the impact she has made, and continues to make, to Manitoba Opera and by extension to the community of Winnipeg.”

Elba Haid joined the board of Manitoba Opera in 2007. Prior to becoming Chair, she served as Chair of the Annual Gala and of the Camerata Committee (for donors starting at $1,250) during which time gifts and donations increased by 20%. In 2018, she was instrumental in the development of a new fundraising initiative – The Gail Asper Award – named after Winnipeg philanthropist Gail Asper and awarded to individuals who, like its namesake, demonstrate exemplary leadership in the field of endeavor or pursuit of a visionary goal. The event raised $255,000 in support of the company’s programming and education programs.

View Press Release

Jan 15, 2020


Manitoba Opera announced today that the company will honour Winnipeg champion, philanthropist, and volunteer Tannis M. Richardson C.M., B.Sc. (H. Ec.), LL.D. with The Gail Asper Award. The Gail Asper Award was created by Manitoba Opera in 2018 to honour individuals who demonstrate exemplary leadership in a field of endeavor or pursuit of a visionary goal.

Mrs. Richardson has made a significant difference in her hometown of Winnipeg and across the country through her decades of work and dedication to the arts, health care, and cultural organizations. She will receive The Gail Asper Award at a Gala Reception held in her honour Thursday, April 16, 2020, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the Manitoba Club, 194 Broadway, Winnipeg.

Mrs. Richardson cares deeply about her community and giving back. She has been a dedicated supporter of numerous health, cultural, and social service organizations. She has been especially committed to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Canada (JDRF), serving at the community and national levels, as well as with JDRF International.

In addition, she has contributed time and funds to many organizations including Manitoba Opera (for which she sat on the board from 1975 to 1978), the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Manitoba Museum, United Way of Winnipeg, and the Kidney Foundation of Canada, and played an instrumental role in the development of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, as well as other organizations. In recognition of her philanthropy and community service, and among other awards, Mrs. Richardson was invested in the Order of Canada in 2003 and awarded an honorary degree by the University of Manitoba in 2012. (Bio follows)

View Press Release